Meet the Roseate Spoonbill, a Seriously Underrated Pink Bird
Flamingos are the celebrities of the pink bird world. And while we love the majestic bird species, it's time for its cool cousin (by looks, not genes) to also get its time in the spotlight.
Native to the Americas and sporting looks that would make Molly Ringwald's "Pretty in Pink" character jealous, it's time to meet the one and only roseate spoonbill.
Yes, we know the name isn't familiar. Let's change that. Here are some cool facts about the roseate spoonbill.
Roseate Spoonbills Are Not Related to Flamingos
Because of its color, people sometimes mistake the species for flamingos, but the two couldn't be more different.
While flamingos have a long neck and curved beaks, roseate spoonbills have a short neck and a long bill that flattens at the end (like spoons).
Another thing that distinguishes the roseate from the flamingo is that the former can actually fly.
They're Unique in the Americas
Spoonbills spread out all over the world, with every continent except Antarctica housing them. Most continents have at least two species of this genus. But in the Americas, the roseate spoonbill is the only native species.
These colorful birds are also the only ones in the entire genus that has pink instead of white feathers.
They Are What They Eat
Despite their differences from flamingos, roseates get their color in the same way as their more famous counterpart: from their food.
The wading birds feed on shrimp and other crustaceans that contain pigments known as carotenoids. Over time and after eating copious amounts of crustaceans, these pigments turn their white feathers pink.
Other common food sources include small fish, frogs and aquatic insects.
The Older, the Wiser...And Pinker
But roseate spoonbills aren't born with their distinctive color. Instead, they have the natural white feathers of other roseate species. As they feed, they gradually become pinker and pinker. This means that the older they are, the more intense their hue is.
This is a species where aging is a good thing.
Roseates Spoonbills Have One Thing in Common With Humans
Although getting older means having more beautiful plumage, some roseates do deal with a negative side effect of aging: they bald.
Just like humans, when these birds get older, they start losing feathers from their heads. You'll often see grandpa roseates sporting a clean top. By all accounts, they're far more accepting of this natural occurrence than us.
They Are a Protected Bird
Like many species on this planet, the roseate spoonbill has suffered at the hands of humanity. Before the mid-19th century, they were abundant in the American south. Then, hunters began catching them for their beautiful feathers, which were then used in accessories or as decorations.
These cash-hungry hunters almost drove the species to extinction in the country. And while populations in other places in the Americas fared a bit better, habitat loss has drastically diminished roseate numbers.
Thankfully, the 21st century has brought about some consciousness, and many areas are striving to protect this beautiful and rare bird.
They Have a Wide Habitat Range
If you're already in love with the roseate spoonbill (we definitely are), there are plenty of places where you can try to see them in the wild.
In the United States, the species inhabits the Gulf Coast in an area ranging from the Florida Keys to South Carolina and Texas. The best place to see them is the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge in Sanibel Island, Florida.
Or use the bird as an excuse for international travel. You'll find flocks throughout the Americas and the Caribbean, all the way down to Chile and Argentina.
For a good chance of catching them in their natural habitat, head to Costa Rica. Because of the country's extensive protection of natural environments, roseate spoonbills inhabit numerous areas, including Caño Negro and the Gulf of Nicoya.
Seeing these birds with your own eyes is one of the coolest natural experiences you can have in Costa Rica.